I love excellent fiction; don’t you? If one book by an author is compelling as well as entertaining, I’m going to read them again. I started reading Janette Oke a long time ago when she was almost the only writer of Christian fiction on the shelves. I haven’t missed a Davis Bunn book since 1993. When the two teamed up to combine their talents, I was curious. Now, I’m hooked.
When I settled in with my free Kindle copy of The Centurion’s Wife, it was a cold winter day here in Minnesota. I tend to get personally involved in fiction, so welcomed the opportunity to imagine visiting a much warmer client and meeting pretend characters who might entertain me. They immediately became more to me.
Leah and Alban’s relationship and interest in the missing prophet, Jesus, drew me in. Not since Francine Rivers’ series, The Mark of the Lion, have I felt like I had warm, fine sand between my toes as book one in The Acts of Faith Series.
When I completed book one, I purchased books two and three. My recent lunch hours have been spent eating a quickly prepared sandwich so I could return to the land of my Lord Jesus for at least thirty minutes each day. Reluctantly, I’d shut down my reader and carry my empty plate to the dishwasher promising myself a few minutes to read later.
My connection to Abigail, heroine of The Hidden Flame, was immediate. I came to Christ at the age of fifteen, and like this character wanted to do all I could to serve Him well – including marrying a believer. Abigail captivates two men – neither of them followers of the Way. While both vie for her attention and her hand, leaving her spirit deeply unsettled. When a potential alternative solution presents itself Abigail realizes God answers her prayers too. I loved “meeting” Stephen and cringed at the power and piety of Saul of Tarsus. One of the best parts of this book was I got to spend some pretend time with one of my favorite biblical women – the one and only Martha.
I read the last page of book two and opened up The Damascus Way, intentionally taking a long lunch so I could “stay” in Judea just a little bit longer. The temperatures outside here were below zero, the wind howled around our house and I knew I’d made the right decision. Besides, and I wanted more time with the followers of Jesus.
Can a “kept” woman be redeemed? Can her daughter find something to replace the shame she feels for her mother and at times, herself? Julia learns with Jesus all this and more are possible for the woman who believes. I enjoyed getting to know Jacob better, getting back into Abigail’s life, was delighted by the shining star, her daughter Dorcas, who looked surprisingly like my great niece Grace in my mind.
I was glad to meet Helena, Jamal, and the others, but it was Zoe the older servant whose wisdom and faithful heart meant the most to me in this third book of the series. She reminded me of my mom. Jacob’s wild ride across the desert from blood thirsty bandits made my heart beat faster and I confess, I wanted to pray for him! (Did I mention I get a little involved in the fiction I read?)
I was thankful for the well-written conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus, and gained greater understanding of the mistrust these believers must have felt toward this Christian killer. God forgave him for much and so did those whose lives he had ripped apart in his religious zeal.
As I shut down my Kindle after the last page, I wondered if the authors would continue the stories – would they follow Paul to Lydia’s house, into his tent making business, or the shipwreck? A reader can hope.
These two authors’ voices blend seamlessly. The conflict and resolution flowed with rhythm and grace. I had time to take a breath, and when I left I wanted to hurry back. While these books are fiction, they remained true to the facts we know biblically and historically.
Bunn and Oke created characters who could have lived then – characters who reminded me of those first days when I became a follower of Jesus – with a hunger for others to know the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
If you haven’t read this series yet, I encourage – even urge you to do so. If you can, purchase all three at once and read them one right after the other for a short Judean vacation from the comfort and safety of your own chair.
Joy DeKok is an author, speaker, and author coach. One of Joy’s favorite things to do is reading fiction curled up in a comfy chair in the winter and outside in her gazebo the rest of the year. She and her husband Jon live on 35 acres of woods and field in rural Minnesota. They find great pleasure riding their John Deere Gator to their bog where they can listen to the bull frog choir, watch the birds, drink hot coffee, and hold hands. Visit Joy at Author Infusion.